The Ballad Of Miranda Papes
Every ball player has the same dream. Even some non-players have the dream. Bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, tie ballgame, championship on the line and the pitcher is getting gassed. You can smell the fear all the way from the batter’s box. You give the pitcher a hard stare as they try to figure out what they could possibly throw to you to make it through the inning. They look down, spit, fidget and dramatically wind-up. The ball comes at you in slow motion. As you swing, every decision you have ever made in your life, good or bad, all make sense because they led you to this moment. Everything matters and everything is on hold. The world waits with baited breath as your bat connects with the ball. Within an instant, you are immortal.
One would assume that Miranda Papes also had this dream and better yet, was well on her way to living it on an unsuspecting Wednesday afternoon. Although, given the circumstances, the dream had to be drastically adjusted. For starters, she plays softball, so it was actually the bottom of the 7th inning. And there was no championship on the line, instead it was her 4-11 team trying to fend off the 2-20 opponents to prevent the double-header sweep. But everything else about the setup was true. The game was tied at 6, the bases were loaded and Miranda Papes had the opportunity to end it in one swing. And to make it even sweeter, she would go on the record of being the winning pitcher of the game.
Coach knew what she was doing when she put Miranda in the batting lineup. In a league with Designated Players, there’s no reason to ever make a pitcher hit. But her RBI in the previous game gave them good reason to give her another chance. And as she stepped up to the plate, she had the opportunity to win the entire game herself. The pitcher did her awkward, balky windup and threw a pitch wide outside. Both players unfazed, the pitcher wound up again and aimed for the same spot, with the same result. You could feel the air start to shift. The pitcher takes a little extra time while Miranda stays in the box, ready for whatever’s coming for her. The third pitch was almost in the dirt. Showtime. One more ball and she could have herself a walk-off walk to win the game for herself. Chatter came from both dugouts. Fans crossed their fingers, begging her to not swing. Miranda stepped out of the box, took a deep breath and went back in. She was ready for her moment. The pitch slowed down as it became apparent that it was a meatball right down the middle. She closes her eyes, swings and prepares for immortality.
But something’s not right.
The ball. It didn’t hit the bat.
This isn’t how it was supposed to go.
And with that, the advantage shifted in the pitcher’s favor. She threw Miranda two more garbage pitches, both with wild swings and misses. And suddenly, the dream had become a nightmare. As she sulked back to the dugout, an even more terrible reality hit her: she still had to go out there and pitch an 8th inning. Her teammates tried their best to keep her spirits up, but as she did her death march to the mound, the clouds up above never felt darker. She didn’t let her 120+ pitch count get to her as she quickly got the first out. Then, within moments, the second out came in the form of a sac fly to send the ghost runner to 3rd. She can still get the win, the dream can still be salvaged. But then a screamer down the line injures the third baseman, stays fair and sends the runner home easily.
And then the wheels fell off.
If only the ball would’ve bounced differently, the narrative could’ve done the same. If only she didn’t swing. Softball is a game of unforgiving “what ifs”. Within the blink of an eye, it was a 12-6 game and coach walked over to the home plate umpire to discuss something. Probably to take Miranda out of her misery and let some other poor schmuck attempt to get that last out. But no, it wasn’t even that. The last batter, who in her second at-bat of the inning hit a 2 RBI double, was already taken out of the game. She was pulled after the first at-bat in favor of a pinch runner. Everybody was too busy feeling sorry for Miranda that they failed to notice. So the umpire took 2 runs off the board and penalized the team an out to end the inning.
And that was that.
Not only did she not get to live out her dream, she gave up the game and couldn’t even get the satisfaction of recording that last fleeting out. Everyone was grief stricken and the environment was soberingly somber. People shuffled to their cars, crew members quickly wrapped up equipment and not many people even said a word. The poor woman went from almost being the hero to having it all fall apart in the matter of minutes. But she knows that not all is lost. Dreams remain dreams for a reason, because they are never easy to obtain. She’s going to have plenty of opportunities to taste victory, both on and off the field. Mostly off the field, as she is a senior after all. But it still doesn’t take away the sting.
As the crow flies, the town of Frisco, Texas is 1,623 miles away from DeWitt Family Stadium. But to Miranda Papes, it might as well be a million miles.